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If our toes were our fingers, if Pyongyang was Tehran

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — metaphors, mathematics, and a question for you all ]
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There’s a toe ointment ad for Kerasil that begins:

If our toes were our fingers, everyone would instantly notice the difference..

— accompanied by various shortt clips of feet serving various functions of hands, see above.

I’ll talk about fingers and toes, okay, if you’ll tell me about Pyongyang and Tehran, deal?

**

This is the first ad — or for that matter, mass media mention — I’ve seen of the hands / feet comparison, and that’s significant in itself because, along with day / night, sun / moon, fingers / toes must be one of the earlier comparisons on which we base all future comparisons / parallelisms / oppositions, and thus analogies, and by extension, metaphors.

Fingers and toes, then, are an early matrix for us, but that matrix gets abstracted into the decimal counting system, no small matter in our culture and many others. And from decimals we can go to the Dewey Decimal System used in, Wiki informs us, 200,000 libraries in at least 135 countries — and that’s just one of the branches of the tree whose roots are in fingers and toes — our fingers and toes, not the toes of a three-toed sloth or woodpecker…

And of course, the day / night, sun / moon and other dual contrasts arguably derive some of their power from the duality hands / feet, which also gives us left / right, sinister / right, right / wrong and the entire range of moral judgments, based on the two sides of the body and extrapolated from there. We seldom think of these things, unless perhaps in early education, but as Jung and others have noted, they hold great significance for psychology and cultural anthropology.


image: the Nassau County Mathletes

Using decimals, we can represent irrational numbers — impossible to represent as fractions, pi and the square root of minus one foremost among them — a notion so disturbing tto the purist Pythagoreans that Tobias Dantzig, in Number: the Language of Science, quotes Proclus as saying:

It is told that those who first brought out the irrationals from concealment into the open perished in shipwreck, to a man. For the unutterable and the formless must needs be concealed. And those who uncovered and touched this image of life were instantly destroyed and shall remain forever exposed to the play of the eternal waves.

Irrational, or just plain crazy? And those waves — a metaphor for randomness, chaos, or for the universality (via Fourier transforms) of the sine wave?

Oh. And when a zen master wants to set a student a problem that cannot be solved by our binarily inclined minds, he gives them the koan “what’s the sound of one hand clapping?”

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Okay, that’s enough about about hands / feet — now let’s hear about the Pyongyang summit and the Iranian nuclear deal — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. I’m sure you have plenty of thoughts on the matter — your turn, please..

Sunday surprise: thinking of the Koreas, more

Sunday, April 29th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — mind drifting, which is how writing so often happens ]
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See how one man becomes two at .40 seconds into this Lumineers video, it’s truly remarkable. In Korea, we need the situation reversed. Maybe the skipping will od it.

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Think also of what is happening to the two persons on this Floyd album:

South may be to the left, North to the right, Korea-wise.

How can we avoid this sort of thing?

Warning: the math says, two into one won’t go

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Wishing you all a peaceable Sunday!

On the Floyd album: Shine On You Crazy Diamond

The Korean border / no border dance

Sunday, April 29th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — an end to war & truce might bring peace ]
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The leaders of the two Koreas did a little ritual dance whereby each invited the other to cross the border into his own territory.

You can look at Kim Jung-un and Moon Jae-in doing their border-skipping dance at minute 43 on this video:

If the camera people had been sharper, they’d have been following the leaders in full view, not cutting them off at the knees or waist, so we could see the whole event, of huge symbolic significance.

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One MSNBC commentator aptly described the border as:

dividing a nation — or two nations — depending how you look at it.

That’s not only succinct, it’s profound, if you think about it.

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I’ve discussed the issue of liminality — the symbolic importance of borders — in a major post, Liminality II: the serious part, which I recommend as a follow-up to this one.

It will fill you in with examples — from boot camp to monastic induction, and from the worship of Vishnu to the USS Topeka — of the importance of humility at border crossings.. recommended!

But let me give you a a souvenir, a reminder — just a taste —

Limen is the Latin for border, line drawn in the sand, threshold — and the liminal is therefore what happens at thresholds.

Something pretty remarkable happened as 1999 turned into 2000 — something liminal. And it happened aboard the USS Topeka, SSN-754 (below):

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (June 23, 2009) The attack submarine USS Topeka (SSN 754) departs San Diego harbor for a scheduled deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. Topeka, commanded by Cmdr. Marc Stern, was commissioned on Oct. 21, 1989 and is one of seven Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarines assigned to Submarine Squadron 11. Topeka was showcased in the recently released movie, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” (U.S. Navy photo by Command Master Chief Charles Grandin/Released)

Its bow in one year, its stern in another, the USS Topeka marked the new millennium 400 feet beneath the International Dateline in the Pacific ocean. The Pearl Harbor-based navy submarine straddled the line, meaning that at midnight, one end was in 2000 while the other was still in 1999… The 360-foot-long sub, which was 2,100 miles from Honolulu, Hawaii, straddled the Equator at the same time, meaning it was in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Some of the 130 crewmembers were in Winter in the North, while others were in Summer in the South…

Sitting pretty on the threshold between two millennia, two centuries, two decades, years, seasons, months, days and hemispheres in the recent life of the one earth was an extraordinarily liminal idea — as the two-faced January is a liminal month — and I think illustrates effectively the terrific power of the liminal to sway human thinking

Navy commanders in charge of billion dollar ships seldom get up to such “fanciful” behaviors!

But here’s the whole thing: Liminality II: the serious part: go for it.

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Further:

  • NY Times, North and South Korea Set Bold Goals: A Final Peace and No Nuclear Arms
  • NY Times, North and South Korean Leaders’ Own Words in Meeting at the DMZ
  • Silence as protest and gift

    Friday, April 13th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — on the frayed edges of music ]
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    Silence is the exception rather than the rule — so much so that it’s notable.

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    The bells of York Minster were silenced for a year in protest at the sacking of, as the Guardian eruditely puts it, “30 campanologists”. Bell-ringing is an ancient craft in the UK, mathematical in its combinatoric precision, glorious in its language and literature. Spanning the arts and sciences, it is thus a bridge between the two sides of that academic and popular schism or chasm which CP Snow famously described in his book, The Two Cultures.

    **

    Mathematics and combinatorics:

    The ringing of a peal or complete sequence of bells is a highly mathematized form of music, and the order in which the bells are to be rung — the method — can therefore be transcribed in graphical form:

    Oh, the beauty in so musical a score.

    I dare not show you a full extent — we might run out of pixels!

    **

    Language and literature:

    Truth (and the detested false), Grandsires, Triple Bob Major, oh, and Spitalfields Festival Treble Bob, and how could one forget Affpuddle Treble Bob Major..

    Dorothy Sayers‘ novel The Nine Tailors has nothing to do with bespoke and everything to do with murder most fouldeath and detection:

    In some parishes in England the centuries-old tradition of announcing a death on a church bell is upheld. In a small village most people would be aware of who was ill, and so broadcasting the age and sex of the deceased would identify them. To this end the death was announced by telling (i.e. single blows with the bell down) the sex and then striking off the years. Three blows meant a child, twice three a woman and thrice three a man. After a pause the years were counted out at approximately half-minute intervals. The word teller in some dialects becomes tailor, hence the old saying “Nine tailors maketh a man”.

    The bell used in the novel for the announcement is the largest (tenor) bell, which is dedicated to St. Paul. Hence “teller Paul” or in dialect “tailor Paul”. Sayers is here acknowledging the assistance of Paul Taylor of Taylor’s bell foundry in Loughborough, England who provided her with detailed information on all aspects of change-ringing.

    Scientific American adds other details, describing:

    another time-honored tradition of bells, which frequently have nicknames and inscriptions, as if they were, indeed, alive.

    For instance, in Sayers’ novel, the oldest bell is dubbed Batty Thomas, cast in 1380, and bears the inscription “Abbat Thomas sett mee heare + and bad mee ringe both loud and cleer.” (The oldest bell hung for change ringing that is still in use was cast in 1325; it is the fifth bell at St. Dunstan’s Church in Canterbury, Kent.)

    **

    Argh, the lockout:

    Enough of the beauty of the English bells. From the Guardian piece referenced in the upper panel, above:

    But simmering tensions between the minster’s governing body, the Chapter of York, and the ringers came to a head last October when the band was summarily dismissed and locked out of the 15th-century cathedral’s bell tower.

    The silencing of the York Minster peal is thus a case of a sacred sound being stilled by a secular — or at least unionized — silence.

    **

    How opposite, and apposite, then, is the ringing silence offered by the youthful Quakers as a podcast in the second Guardian piece referenced (lower panel, above):

    It’s not the most obvious subject for a podcast, but a group of young Quakers in Nottingham have recorded their 30-minute silent meeting so as to share their “oasis of calm” with the world.

    In an episode of the monthly Young Quaker Podcast, called the Silence Special, you can hear a clock ticking, pages being turned and the rain falling, as the group meets and sits in silence at the Friend’s Meeting House in Nottingham. [ .. ]

    The idea for the silent podcast first came from Tim Gee, a Quaker living in London, who was inspired by the BBC’s season of “slow” radio, which treated audiences to – among other things – the sounds of birds singing, mountain climbing and monks chatting.

    Gee said he had wanted to “share a small oasis of calm, and a way to provide a moment of stillness, for people on the move”.

    Jessica Hubbard-Bailey, 25, from the Nottingham Young Quakers, who recorded the podcast, said they had jumped at the opportunity to broadcast something “immersive and unusual”. She added: “We have very different ways of worship to most people of faith and we thought this was a really unique opportunity to give people a little slice of what the Quakers do. Also, we are really good at being quiet because we’ve made a practice of it and I think that is of value. These days everyone is so busy, everyone is working all the time, so it’s really valuable to have the opportunity to sit down once a week and just be quiet and listen.”

    Listen? Listen to the birds, to the chattering monks — or to the still, small voice?

    **

    Listen, in any case, to the sound of silence:

    Just listen!

    On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: twelve

    Friday, March 23rd, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — Cambridge Analytica and Guardian logos, HipBone Game boards ]
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    A while back, I posted a series of pieces about the felicities of graph-based game-board design. This piece picks up from that series, with a bit of a refresher, and a pointer to the Cambridge Analytica logo.

    First, the question arises of what graphs are. A graph, from a mathematical point of view, consists of nodes and edges: nodes are, in this diagram, the red circles, and edges are the lines connecting them:

    We know a great deal about the mathematics of graphs, but they underlya vasst repertoire of modern systems, including — for an extreme. complex instance — the design of washing machines:

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    Back at least to medieval times, graphs can be found with concepts assigned to their nodes and the reasons connecting those conceptts assigned to their edges. These thre show one Jewish (Kabbalistic) conceptual graph, one graph of the four elements and their relaations, and a Christian ttrinitarian graph:

    I have usedsc similar conceptual graphs as the boards of my HipBone Games. SHown herear ethree of my boards, together with a spiffy board by my friend and colleagues Cath Styles for her Sembl games:

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    All the above, to show you why all usees of graphs are potentially of interest to me, and why I am particularly interested in the Cambridge Analytica logo (left, below), which offers a graph in the shape of the human brain, and the logo the Guardian devised (right, below), to give visual continuity to their articles about Cambridge Analytica;

    I think you can see how the Guardian logo would make a fine HipBone game board for teen Agatha Christie -type games.

    **

    Hey, on complexity — which graphs and diagrams are better at than “linear” verbal explanations — there’s this — not a graph! — from another post of mine — wow!:


    Shaping strategy — Constant turbulence and disruption

    **

    Earlier in this series:

  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: preliminaries
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: two dazzlers
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: three
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: four
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: five
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: six
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: seven
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: eight
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: nine
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: ten
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: eleven

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